By Lindsay Peyton
Fireworks will soon light up the night sky in Palestine, Texas, as Lakeview Methodist Conference Center celebrates its 75th anniversary. Among the special guests in the audience will be some of the original summer campers from 1949. “We definitely want everyone to get their tickets and celebrate with us,” president and CEO Josh Pulver said.
Festivities begin at 11 a.m. on Saturday, April 2 at 400 Private Road 6036, with an open house, food trucks of all varieties and family fun, including inflatables, basketball, neon dodgeball and a silent disco. Visitors can tour the facility and learn about Lakeview’s history, exploring memorabilia collected in its archives.
Then, a ticketed worship and concert will begin at 3 p.m. at the Copeland Center with guest artists and a message by Bishop Scott Jones. Admission is $10.
Lakeview was established in 1947, after the Texas Annual Conference received a gift of 453 acres from residents of Anderson County. Their vision of a new camp in East Texas was realized soon thereafter.
Over the years, Lakeview grew and expanded, both in terms of attendance and property. In 1954 the Texas Annual Conference created a corporation for ownership of the facility. As a result, the Lakeview Methodist Assembly was chartered as an independent non-profit corporation. Its new Board of Directors moved forward to build facilities and develop event and group relationships.
For decades, all of the Texas Annual Conference events have been held at Lakeview, including the District summer youth camps and choir camps. The Texas Conference Choir Camp and Texas A&M University Fish Camp have also called Lakeview home since the 1950s.
Lakeview’s mission is “transforming lives by experiencing God’s love in a safe environment through meaningful relationships and gracious hospitality.”
Pulver describes the 1,368 acres of East Texas piney woods as a “thin place,” a location where the distinction between heaven and earth is minimal and experiencing the sacred is easier. “You see God working here in so many ways,” he explained. “God is so present on these grounds.”
Pulver said that Lakeview is a place where visitors can disconnect from the stresses of regular life and reconnect with friends, family and Christ. “It’s an opportunity to unplug from all distractions and move closer to God,” he said. “To be here and witness that has truly been a blessing.”
Throughout Lakeview’s 75 year history, the camp expanded to accommodate more groups and events, as well as adding retreat programming. Two capital campaigns made it possible to add a cafeteria, dorms, cabins and a meeting complex, as well as infrastructure improvements and renovations to existing structures.
Currently, Lakeview houses 1,224 dorm beds in 92 rooms, as well as 104 hotel beds in 52 rooms. There are 19 meeting spaces, and more than 20,000 visitors come to Lakeview annually for life-changing camps, retreats, conferences, outdoor education programming and team-building events.
Lakeview continues to grow, and Pulver said that at the celebration, a vision of the future will be shared. “You have to be there to find out,” he said with a smile. “God has put some big things on our hearts moving forward.”
Pulver explained that the facility evolves to meet the needs of the community. “We have to continue improving so we can minister to more people,” he said. “After all, that’s why we’re here.”
The center has become a sanctuary for families and churches, a place to reconnect with God’s plans, Pulver said. Moving into the next 75 years, the future is bright and God’s guidance will help Lakeview continue its mission.